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A dream come true for architect Basil Al Bayati

Basil Al Bayati, on the staircase of his building.
Basil Al Bayati, on the staircase of his building. / Fernando González
  • málaga

  • The building, in Calle Marqués de Guadiaro, will house a room for exhibitions on design and craftsmanship, a cafeteria and a bookshop

  • The famous Iraqi architect is opening a cultural centre in the centre of Malaga city

A journey into the origins of the culture of Al-Andalus, a place to experience new sensations through design, architecture and craftsmanship. That is The Unique World of Basil Al Bayati, a museum and cultural centre which is scheduled to open in March after more than three years of preparation.

This project, the brainchild of Iraqi architect Basil Al Bayati, is located in a building which was designed by Jerónimo Cuervo and constructed in 1877, at number 3, Calle Marqués de Guadiaro, between Calle Álamos and Calle Beatas. Now aged 70, Basil Al Bayati is finally going to fulfil his dream of showcasing in this completely restored venue the best of all his work, which includes not only architecture but also furniture design and even literature.

"I came to Malaga in 1976 and I liked it because it reminds me of Baghdad, where I was born," explained Basil in one of the most luxurious areas in the building, the space which is going to be the cafeteria.

For this architect, who has designed some of the most remarkable mosques, hotels, universities and hospitals in Europe and the Arab countries during the past 30 years, including the central mosque in Edinburgh, a museum such as this in the very heart of Malaga will enrich the city. "I had offers to do this in the UK and Germany, but I wanted it to be here because the concept fits in better," says Al Bayati.

Basil Al Bayati in one of the several rooms of the museum

Basil Al Bayati in one of the several rooms of the museum / Fernando González

The project was expected to cost more than one million euros, but that sum has almost doubled because of numerous improvements which were added after the works began. The ground floor will house a book and gift shop where some of the books published by Fabulist - also owned by Basil Al Bayati - will be on sale. These will include architecture, fiction, the psychology of creativity and the history of the Muslim era of Andalucía. On the first floor, the cafeteria has hand-carved wooden ceilings and lamps which were made especially in Turkey. The food served here will be ecological, and vegetarian.

The second floor is a room for temporary exhibitions, and will house displays of architecture, ceramic items and furniture, among others. The intention is to establish links with the Architecture School of Malaga university and the College of Architects, to work on joint projects.

On the third floor there will be an area for workshops and conferences, and the fourth floor will be a residence for Basil Al Bayati, who also owns other homes on the Costa del Sol. Finally, the terrace will be open so people can enjoy the wonderful views of the cathedral and the Alcazaba fortress.

Metaphoric style

The museum, which will publish a catalogue of its own, is filled with pictures of Al Bayati's designs and very unusual antique Arab-style furniture. The work of this architect, who has had offices in London and Kuwait in the past, is outstanding for the originality of shapes, and the imagination and fantasy of his designs.

It is what is called 'metaphorical architecture', a style which uses oneiric forms and nature to configure the appearance of the buildings. This is the world of Basil Al Bayati, a genius of forms and design which, in a few weeks, will be on view for all those who visit this latest attraction in the old part of the city centre.